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ON SCIENTIFIC CREATIVITY ALBERT SZENT-GYORGYI, M.D., Ph.D.* History is dominated by two types ofminds. The history ofhuman suffering is dotted with the names ofmen ofwill power and ambition, who make wars, build empires which then collapse, leaving behind only destruction and misery. The history ofhuman progress is the story ofa relatively small number of creative people, creative in art, sciences, or any other human endeavor. As progress, in the past, depended on them, so it will in the future, and the fate ofany nation depends, to a great extent, on the question: How far does it produce creative minds? It was for this reason that I accepted the chairmanship ofthe National Council ofEducation in my native country, Hungary, during the short democratic period following World War II. I did this with two ideas in mind. I was convinced that geniuses are always present in numbers but are wasted. I based this opinion on the fact that they show no random distribution in history, but mostly appear in groups of3's, 4's, or 5's. This indicates that geniuses are always there but need certain environmental factors for their development . My other conviction was that genius is not a mystery. It is just a certain type ofbrain which can be analyzed, understood, and found, once one has learned to decode its signs. As chairman ofthe Council ofEducation , I intended to work out a system by which to find the outstanding creative intellects and provide the conditions necessary for their development . My ideas were countered by the professional educators with the objection that genius needs no help, it breaks its own way. I am afraid it rather breaks its neck, genius being often connectedwith a great sensitivity. I am still confident that, in a limited time, I could have worked out my system and could have made Hungary into one ofthe most outstanding * The Institute for Muscle Research at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts . This paper was presented at a panel held at the Third World Congress of Psychiatry, Montreal, Canada,June 7, 1961. The participants were Lord Adrian, Linus Pauling, and the author. 173 countries. Unfortunately, political changes made an early end to my work on this line. In my present beloved country, the United States, I find the development of outstanding creativity is hampered, to some extent, by misplaced ideas about democracy, according to which we are all equals. Nature is not democratic and, as far as the intellect is concerned, does not make us all equals. There is a trend to correct this undemocratic attitude ofNature and make usallequalsalso inthedomain oftheintellect, lifting theretardedand knocking down the outstanding to the common level. If we had spent, inthe past, halfas muchmoneyand thoughton the outstanding as we have on the retarded children, leadership would not be such a scarce commodity. The trend is to replace excellence by numbers, quality by quantity. Our reasoning is analogous to saying that ifone woman can produce a child in nine months, nine women will produce it in one. Our reasoning does not hold, even for this simplest form ofcreativity. There are pregnant ones and non-pregnant ones among us, and only those who are pregnant, pregnant with ideas, will be creative. The ideal ofdemocracy is to give everybody an equal chance for education. My intention was to give everybody an equal chance to develop his natural abilities to the utmost —whether outstanding or retarded—which means an unequal education . Having dropped my abortive activities on this line at an early stage, I am unable to present to you any coherent objective study, so I will try to overcome my inhibitions and try to give you an analysis of the only scientist about whom I have firsthand information, that is, myself. IfI look at myselfobjectively from the outside, the first thing I notice is that I find myself running every morning, at an early hour, very impatiently , to my laboratory. Nor does my work end when I return from my workbench in the afternoon. I go on thinking about my problems all the time; and my brain must be going on thinking about them even when I sleep, because I mostly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 173-178
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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